Your Money or Your Life

Oftentimes, when I tell people that I don’t vote for (or against) politicians or political parties, they act as though this meant I weren’t a “free person”… or as if I were giving up some of my democratic freedoms.

Quite the contrary: I choose not to vote for people involved in these organizations. At the same time, I engage very much in promoting other organizations.

In my opinion, when people think that their freedom is exercised by voting in political elections, then they are actually limiting their own freedom to choosing nothing more than left or right, yes or no,… — indeed: a very limited number of choices (basically, it usually boils down to an “either / or” choice — much like when being held up at gunpoint and being given these two options: “your money or or life?”).

Since I know many words, I can compose a vast number — perhaps even an infinite amount — of choices. I am not limited to simply grunting “yea” or “nea”, to banging on the ground with a club, or anything like that.

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Why Retard Media Don’t Scale

Recently, I started a new blogging network (using WordPress) and a friend reminded me that WordPress has scaling issues. I acknowledge that — from a retard media perspective. In retard media, the aim is to create one publication that thousands or even many millions of people follow, pay attention to, read, or “consume” in some way… — and perhaps even also “join” as fans, “content aficionados” or something like that. In that sense, retard media are a very “deep web” phenomenon: they are temples for vast numbers of faithful readers (Google and Facebook are prime examples).

Yet in another way, WordPress scales quite well — and crucially: it is precisely the way that the World-Wide Web is actually configured that WordPress functions exceptionally well: as a decentralized information network, interconnected along edges (rather than a centralized system prone to bottlenecks). Note, also, that many of the difficulties commonly experienced online often happen with respect to centralized systems (e.g. not only Google or Facebook, but also very large scale data-oriented projects, such as Netflix) which operate along a retard media model of selling data for consumption (i.e., a consumer “paid content” scheme).

Since WordPress does not require inordinate amounts of data processing equipment (as is the case with Google, Facebook and to some extent also data transmission companies such as Youtube and Netflix), it is relatively cheap and easy to set up a WordPress website / blog and to thereby create a quite powerful content management system on a more-or-less shoestring budget.

What is more, the “content” created by using WordPress can subsequently be easily stored in static HTML files, such that vast amounts of data can be very easily served at virtually no cost whatsoever.

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Communication, Being a Communal Activity, is Community-Oriented — Is to Share an Act of Communism?

Sharing is a confusing concept — on the one hand, shares on Wall Street are perhaps the most iconic symbols of far-right capitalism and libertarian ideals, but on the other hand to share information… to present it to someone, apparently free of charge, to give it away into an unknown void seems somehow infected with the perceived polar opposite of private investment activity: Communism. 8O

Many years over, I have noticed a very strong ambivalence that people who have been indoctrinated with “free market” ideas hold towards sharing information. Never mind, though, that there is no such thing as a free market anywhere — all economic activity is regulated in some shape or form (otherwise, dinosaurs might not ever have gone extinct). The idealistic fantasies of fanatically patriotic folks, however, have their attention dead-set on whatever style of chauvinism happens to be in fashion today — and they are at least as fickle as the wind.

Nonetheless, decades of indoctrination and centuries of hellfire and brimstone sermons on the sinfulness of sharing private property have filled a sizable body of literature that would put to shame even the most prolific graffiti artists of our day. Wall-to-wall conformity is the dictum of the day, and any and all nonconformists will please move to the exit to disappear out back. Vast numbers of minds have been reduced into well employed machinery, fed scraps with salt so that they are willing to continue oiling the wheels of production — whether of goods or services doesn’t matter much (but note that services have a wonderful way of leaving little or no trace).

In the ideologies of capitalism, communism is anathema to the prescribed blueprints for profit. “Happy Together” is an anthem of bohemian peasants living in pre-industrial squalor, not a technologically advanced, exclusive, walled-off, all-inclusive living arrangement.

One word that must be avoided at all costs is “environment” — any mention of environmental anything is enough to become an outcast from life in the big tent.

Yet the moist poignant, though not immediately apparent, paradox is how sharing has fared to become so boldly stitched on the flag of the times — and how the most exclusive of actors will ever be able to remove it (or, at least: remove themselves from any proximity to it). Publicity was all good and fine when it was built with capitalist printing presses, but now someone seems to have let the cat out of the bag. :|

Disoriented, capitalists no longer know which way to turn. They continue to push advertising, but it no longer sticks — it is about as effective as putting a slab of butter on top of a hot grill. In the olden days, it was much easier to mesmerize consumers into buying stuff by just dangling it in front of their eyes, time and again, over and over… — it worked like a charm!

Today, capitalism’s “new and improved” is no longer the stardust it once was — it is just another grain of sand trying to compete in a vast desert of dried up content. Trying to sell virtual oases is not quite as easy as novices might think — unfortunately, you cannot make a big profit on a mirage… especially when yet another mirage is just a click away.

If only there were a way to sprinkle some authenticity on top of some little piece of this undifferentiated landscape. Authenticity itself is the giant hurdle that capitalism cannot seem to muster. The folklore of capitalism operates behind closed doors, in smoke filled rooms around a poker table. Capitalism’s defining moment is the ultimate bluff, not transparent lucidity.

Today any capitalist can acquire a string of characters that say “fair” and “honest”, but that alone does not guarantee that they are speaking on the same terms that their potential audience is searching for. Distributed consumer networks can route around bogus promises in a snap. The lexicon itself is no longer controlled by any single institution — whether in Oxford, whether called Webster,… it just doesn’t matter. The murmur of the crowds quickly drowns out whatever property private corporations might wish to invent.

If, and only if, capitalism is willing to give up on the notion of proprietary language, then it might have a chance to reap profits within what is essentially a communist system. Trying to build a growth business outside the natural commune of communications is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

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Live to Make “Love Life” Stories

Why should anyone write down their life story — isn’t simply living it good enough?

I think not — and the reason why is quite similar to the reason why many people keep journals of their dreams. In fact: This idea came to me in a dream, and since I don’t keep a dream journal, I have forgotten some of the minor details of the plot. Yet it was a quite lucid dream, and therefore I remember the main gist and the major thrust of the idea quite well.

First of all: Life stories are made by stringing life experiences and life events together. You yourself create the narrative, even if the individual building blocks seem to be plain matters of fact… and you can actually build many different narratives from the same facts.

Second, very little of what we believe are obviously true facts are actually very much open to interpretation. Everyone has their own point of view, and these different perspectives create inherently different biases — there is no such thing as an unbiased opinion. It is far more fruitful to become aware of bias than to attempt to eradicate it.

From the above two observations, it should be quite clear already that the complexity of managing so many “variables” is quite formidable. It has often been said that one reason why humans started to write was in order to externalize data and thereby free up space in the CPUs — their brains, their capacity to think, ponder, reason, etc. without at the same time having to worry about each and every bit of detail. This is the reasoning behind storing data externally — in other words: writing it down.

Another similar motivation for storing data externally is to document the same event from different perspectives — this is the main reason why the “Wisdom of the Crowds” idea became so popular. What many overlooked in their fanatical flocking to overcrowded websites, though, was that this only helps if the different perspectives actually complement each other. Millions of identical perspectives do not really improve the view of any particular event.

Ultimately, one primary reason to document your own life experiences is to enrich your own perspective on your own life — and perhaps also your perspective on the life of others. Do you know people who might “feature” you in their story — but do so in a way that makes it clear that your existence in the story is after all mainly about them? You can enrich your story by weaving other people’s stories into your own (whether or not they reciprocate by weaving your story into theirs). Be willing to tell other people’s stories: They will love it! You will expand your own horizons! And, in the end: You will have woven a fabric of love — a loving network of interwoven stories that complement each other and from which each and every individual gains perspective. :)

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Natural Technology

I often remember back to when I was in grad school — one of my memories is of another grad student from China (she was working on her Ph.D.) and the discussions we had. In one of these, she explained to me the Chinese view of nature … roughly: as “the inevitable”.

I also sometimes think about how some people view nature as something we (humans) are not a part of — I find that very odd (and in some way also fundamentally wrong).

Just now something else occurred to me that seems related. We are constantly creating the technology we want — in other words: Technology evolves… just as nature is destined to take its natural (evolutionary) course. For example: we no longer write on clay tablets. We have changed writing technology, and so writing technology has evolved. In this way, technology follows laws of nature (and natural evolution) much in the same way as living species do.

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The Future of Advertising is Extinction

I know many people in the advertising industry often debate about whether brand advertising or direct response advertising will prevail. I have a very different opinion: Advertising will fail altogether.

Note that I am not saying that there will no longer be opportunities for creatives. Instead, I simply feel that it will be increasingly difficult for brand names to dupe people into buying something, take their money and run.

No doubt: Companies with inordinate amounts of crazy money will continue to invest inordinate amounts into crazy advertising campaigns — just look at Uber, awash with Google investments, spending it wildly on crazy ideas from an even more eccentric leader. Of course the people who use Google to find rental cars, taxis, etc. are paying for all of this nonsense (e.g. by having to use Uber, even if other alternatives might exist — but which Google will not show Google users unless that taxi company is willing to cough up the inordinate sums required to provide the kind of investment capital Google wants to invest).

But ultimately corrupt companies will fail. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time — but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time (even if there is a sucker born every second).

I believe Americans have to decide on which future they prefer: They could clutch onto the past, fixating themselves on meaningless brand names and retard media because they believe in the empty promises these brands make time and again, leading them down false paths towards deserted landscapes, burdened with debts brought on by the promising mirages used to sell student loans, mortgages paid on overpriced real estate land grabs, and all sorts of hocus pocus marketing tricks; Or they could overthrow these scheming schmucks and instead build an economy upon the social fabric of markets exchanging ideas and engagement that is focused on long-lasting partnerships rather than shortchanging your business partner in order to make this quarter’s profits seem rosier, or to shuttle such profits off to foreign accounts to pay for more long drinks for executives on some remote island resort.

You may be shocked, but I think many — if not most — Americans will choose to continue to subscribe to the business ethics of duping your business partner out of some cash in order to invest it in new ventures on duping even more people out of even more cash. There are several reasons for this. First, I think there are indeed some people who would argue that it is human nature. I might not go that far, but secondly I do admit that it has become a very long-standing American tradition — right from the first days of the European invasion, for example when some of the first settlers bought Manhattan for a bunch of furs and the like. But perhaps one of the strongest indicators are those many empires throughout history which have also squandered their wealth on meaningless nonsense.

So, to quote Dr. Seuss: UNLESS American people wake up and smell the coffee, the future will no longer belong to America — and in my opinion, I think it might be a very good thing if the future were no longer dictated by a bunch of illiterate ignoramuses.

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The State of Retard Media

An interesting graphic from Verisign’s new “Domain Name Industry Brief“:

dot tsk tsk

The relevant footnotes are:

5 The total number of gTLDs and their registrations is published through the Centralized Zone Data Service. https://czds.icann.org/en
6 App usage percent in the U.S. is provided by ComScore. http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Presentations-and-Whitepapers/2014/The-US-Mobile-App-Report
7 Google geotargetable domains. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1347922?hl=en

Of course: TK (Tokelau) is considered (by Google) to be a generic Top Level Domain! :D

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Economic Substitution Revisited: Unraveling the Firm

Traditionally, the field of Economics has used something called a “production function” to describe a relationship whereby inputs (in the simplest of models, these might simply be “labor” and “capital”) are turned into outputs (many economists refer to some abstract unit of products or services, such as “widgets”). This transformation is usually assumed to be brought about by an entrepreneur or perhaps some notion of a firm — but this aspect is not normally considered to be an input. Instead, the firm (or the entrepreneur) is rather simply assumed to be an agent of change — and the production function describes the results of this agency.

I believe this is perhaps a gross oversimplification — and I wonder whether this depiction of what is actually going on in an economy clouds our ability to recognize issues and problems that might arise.

One example — it’s the one that first started me thinking about this and got me to this idea — is the way one input might be substituted for another (this is a “technological” issue, but the basic idea is that labor and capital can be exchanged for one another [economics is actually quite abstract that way] ). This idea springs from the way in “advanced” economies, one person can use more capital to produce more output than in so-called “underdeveloped” economies (e.g. in agriculture: a large combine plus fuel produces more output per person than rather simple tools used by hand).

What got me thinking about this was an article I recently read that argued that computer technology may be eliminating skilled labor (rather than labor more characterized as “manual” — even if the less skilled work involved manual skills). The idea in the article was that skilled labor referred to overhead (such as managerial, organizational, analytical skills) might easily be performed by a computer algorithm (for example: computers can tally up data, perform statistical calculations, etc.).

I wish to entirely sidestep the question of whether computers can actually think (or manage, or organize, or analyze, etc.). Instead, it occurs to me that these are tasks that have — in my opinion — been carried out by the entrepreneur, or by a firm’s leading executives. And then I thought: “Hey, actually individuals can also use computers to replace entire firms”.

But there is no place in the production function for such an “adjustment” or substitution. This is what leads me to believe that the function of transforming inputs into output actually represents the contribution that the entrepreneur or the firm itself contributes… and that perhaps networked computers can replace entrepreneurs and firms just as much as they can replace workers (regardless of their level of skills).

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Alienation 2.0 (Alienation of Ideas)

Karl Marx wrote about “alienation of labor” — for example:

Alienation (Entfremdung) is the systemic result of living in a socially stratified society, because being a mechanistic part of a social class alienates a person from his and her humanity. The theoretic basis of alienation within the capitalist mode of production is that the worker invariably loses the ability to determine his or her life and destiny, when deprived of the right to think (conceive) of himself as the director of his actions; to determine the character of said actions; to define their relationship with other people; and to own the things and use the value of the goods and services, produced with their labour. Although the worker is an autonomous, self-realised human being, as an economic entity, he or she is directed to goals and diverted to activities that are dictated by the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, in order to extract from the worker the maximum amount of surplus value, in the course of business competition among industrialists.

In my opinion, today we are experiencing a similar phenomenon — a sort of Alienation 2.0 — whereby our productive forces (primarily those which produce ideas) are acquired by organizations when people innocently agree to “terms of service” (“TOS”) whereby these organizations are permitted to use “user-generated” content (“UGC”, including ideas, artistic expressions and various other types of data).

As a result, more and more ideas are being stored in ever more “locked-up” databases of intellectual property, owned by ever fewer, ever larger, ever more private corporations… and ever less people are expressing their own ideas, in their own terms, by themselves, and therefore ever fewer people actually own their own expressions.

More and more people are becoming ever more mindless machinery — their ideas being carried off by ever more conveyor belts into ever deeper data structures, churned into an ever more homogenized mish mash, creating an ever more meaningless din of ever more frothing bubbly babble. This ever more noisy backdrop becomes an ever more overwhelming torrential flood drowning out any and all individual voices, except for those who are ready, willing and able to pay to play their messages in preferred, prioritized channels which float above and in front of the popular factory output.

The main reason why this is the case right now is that although we have undergone an information revolution, our education systems have not yet been reformed, and therefore the vast majority of young graduates lack the literacy skills required to be able to express their own ideas outside of the factory-based industrial ecosystem.

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Card-Carrying Members, Kind of Pregnant,… — Just Saying: Actions Do Not Speak Louder Than Words

If you maintain that (your) actions speak louder than (your) words, then that is an indication that you yourself are insincere. That is not some astounding new discovery, but it has significant impact on an online discussion I took part in yesterday (see “Experience and Evidence Point to Strong Renewal Rates for New TLDs“). “How are these two topics related?” you may ask. Well, this post will hopefully answer that question.

The reason why I participate in this or that group, why I am a member of a particular community, etc. is not in order to “show up” as a card-carrying member. The reason why I become engaged is because the active involvement interests me. I do not seek Google’s or the Pope’s recognition. My interest is intrinsic. I do not want or need a medal, honor or prize. My enthusiasm does not care what outsiders think.

If you are an insider, then we are perhaps more than merely aligned. We are teammates doing teamwork. When we speak, when we plot and plan, we are taking actions which lead to building bridges and connecting the dots. These expression are not meaningless hot air — they are part and parcel… and they also lay the foundation towards collaboratively engineering our future.

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